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Meet the nurses of tomorrow, and hear what they have to say about how Idaho is handling COVID-19

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Boise State School of Nursing
Clockwise from top left: Adison LoPiccolo, Jennifer Stock, Jilene Arnold, John Henry Dye, Ivy Wang and Brynn Sorensen

Given the burden COVID-19 has put on Idaho caregivers, currently under Crisis Standards of Care, the next generation of nurses can’t join the workforce soon enough.

“I would certainly say that I’m nervous, but I am also so excited,” said Adison LoPiccolo, a student in Boise State’s School of Nursing. “Wanting to be a nurse, you want to help everybody you can, but you don’t want to overstep. It’s very conflicting but I’m excited, to say the least.”

LoPiccolo joined some of her fellow nursing students, along with Jennifer Stock, associate clinical professor at Boise State, to talk with Morning Edition host George Prentice. They shared their unique perspectives about getting their first dose of clinical hours, their thoughts on how Idaho is faring during the pandemic, and their personal motivations to be caregivers.

“You remind me of all of the hope that I have for Idaho, the region, the world, because you are pursuing what I consider the most ethical and noble career.”
Jennifer Stock

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. For all of the right reasons we spend many of our days on this program listening to caregivers. This is a particularly sensitive and sometimes perilous moment in our shared history. This morning we talk about tomorrow… and all of the tomorrows after that… as we open up a conversation with the caregivers of those tomorrows. We'll be talking with students at Boise State University's School of Nursing. But first, let's say good morning to Jennifer Stock, associate clinical professor and program director for the Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Program at Boise State. And she came to the university with a wealth of experience in family practice, mental health and pain management. Jennifer, good morning.

JENNIFER STOCK: Good morning. Thank you, George, for the nice intro.

PRENTICE: Absolutely. Well, up top, I want to ask you about this very unique lens that you look through as a as a practitioner, as an educator, as a mentor. You must think about where we are - the collective we - and where we are, somewhere between peril and optimism.

STOCK: It's been a very difficult year and a half for any health care provider, and I bridge my time between academia and clinical work, so I'm able to see the patient side… the patient care side of things and also help educate our future nurses so that they're ready to go out into the workforce. I'm very hopeful that at some point soon we will see a quieting in the COVID cases. And I know that each year we're committed to graduating a number of students who will go into the nursing workforce in Idaho. We're working hard here to make sure that they're prepared for that.

PRENTICE: How is it possible that a nurse's heart isn't broken a hundred times a year?

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St. Luke's Health System

STOCK: Well, I think that's a great question. A nurse's heart is a lot of different things. Nurses know what they know through… not just their heart and their emotion, but also through the empirical way of knowing, the esthetic way of knowing the art of nursing. We practice it and we teach nurses how to use their entire self in order to care for people. We do have to, in some ways, need to protect ourselves, not give too much. Most of us are natural givers and healers, and to be able to hold on to some of that energy for our own families can be very challenging.

PRENTICE: We are thrilled now to meet some of your students, and they are Brynn Sorenson, Ivy Wang, John Henry Dye, Addison LoPiccolo, and Jilene Arnold. Good morning to you all.

GROUP SPEAKING:  Good morning. Good morning.

PRENTICE: Ok. The first question I will put out to the group is this: What is your earliest memory of what inspired you to pursue a career in health care in general, and nursing in particular? What inspired you to be where you are today?

ARNOLD: I'll go first. This is Jilene. I'm a nontraditional nursing student. I’, actually turning 40 this week. The first time I went to college, I had a roommate who was in nursing back in my twenties, and I watched all the things that she was doing and I thought, who would ever want to be a nurse? I thought she was truly out of her mind. It's a hard job and there's a lot that's required. And wasn't until I worked in an elementary school in our local school district really closely with the school nurse and helped cover that office that I realized kind of what nursing is and the opportunities it affords, and that it's not just about long shifts and bodily fluids and IVs and all of that, but it's about being like a support and a strength to others and building relationships and trust and kind of thinking through problems and situations with them to help them find health and their best outcomes. And that's actually the first time that I realized I wanted to be a nurse, and so it definitely came later in life for me. I thought other people who told me when I was younger, you'd make a great nurse. We're insane because it sounded terrible, but I'm glad I'm doing it now.

SORENSEN: Hi, George, I'm Brynn. I am also a nontraditional student. I have Jilene  beat by one year, but my story is pretty much the same as Jilene’s. I had a best friend who was graduating out of high school. She was going straight into a nursing program, and I thought she was crazy. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever want to become a nurse. But through my life experiences and through having my children in hospitals and seeing how much those nurses helped me and how much they can empower people. It really got me going into this direction where I want to be able to help people the same way that they've helped me.

PRENTICE: Jennifer Stock, let me ask you: when do students get real world experience in a hospital or a clinic? And how has the pandemic changed any of that?

STOCK: Yes. So our students would usually be completing between seven and eight hundred clinical hours with a nurse in a clinical setting and a variety of clinical settings. But as soon as the pandemic started, we had some limitations put on the students by our clinical partners. And because of the nursing shortage that has continued. Our students are able to get a little more than half of the clinical hours that they would normally get. So that's really put a lot of stress on each student to be working as hard as they possibly can to be gleaning as much as they possibly can from each clinical experience, putting their best foot forward learning professionalism and all of the nursing duties and practices that we do. It is really changed things, and I think that these students feel that and sense that as well.

PRENTICE: So let's hear about that. Could a few of you here in the group talk about, well, what you're experiencing and maybe describe the scene and the emotional pushes and the pulls that you might feel when you walk through a hospital door?

JOHN HENRY DYE: This is John, and I'll take that question, and I've been working at the Boise VA. You know, what I've noticed is that over the course of the four or five weeks that I've been, there is sort of this additional strain on resources that's happened. So we're seeing, you know, units that have had to be sort of cordoned off so that we can keep the COVID patients separate from other people who don't have COVID. And we're seeing the ICU consistently for with, you know, very acute patients who are mostly on ventilators. And what we've seen, unfortunately, is a lot of these people are not coming off of those ventilators and getting better. One of the nurses there, when we were there and they really had to think to think of some patients that had been able to come off ventilators and leave the hospital. Unfortunately, so many of them are passing away.

ADISON LOPICCOLO: This is Addison, and I actually love to add on to what John said, just because I'm one of those students who at this point in my nursing education has not yet been in the clinical setting….

PRENTICE: Well, let me pause you there then. Are you nervous or excited? Are you anxious about any of that?

LOPICCOLO: I would certainly say that I'm nervous, but I am also so excited. It's just a weird position to really be in where you're kind of on the outside of the doors, seeing that they desperately need more hands and they need more people to help in the hospital at the same point. You know, you don't want to step into this overwhelming situation and just kind of create more chaos for these nurses and health care professionals that need our help, but at the same time have zero extra time to really kind of give us their expertise and give us their guidance. So certainly a bizarre position to be in because, you know, wanting to be a nurse, you want to help and you want to help everybody you can, but you don't want to overstep. And so it's very conflicting, but I'm excited to say the least.

IVY WANG: I also wanted to add on to Addison. This is Ivy. And like Addison, I haven't started my clinicals either. For me, I'm starting in about two weeks, so I'm also very excited to start jumping in and help our health care system. And like Addison said, we're put into this really weird position because at the same time where I really want to go help our health care system. But at the same time, I want to try and take care of myself first, because nursing school is a lot by itself and a lot of us also have jobs and for other students, they also have their own families. So it's definitely a lot, and I want to make sure I take care of myself first. And so I don't have burnout before I even start my nursing career. So I feel like that's really important since our clinical hours have been cut by half and we kind of barely get any practice during school due to COVID. I also just kind of found other ways to kind of practice. Over the summer, I attended Phlebotomy School to kind of get that phlebotomy and draw on experience because I feel like that would be very valuable to me as a nurse. So I feel like a lot of other students are looking at other methods to try and practice their nursing skills. And yeah.

PRENTICE: Brynn and Jilene, I'm going to pose a question to the two of you: could you talk a little bit about conversations that you might have with friends, families and maybe even strangers once they learn that you're in nursing school? I have to assume that you are barraged with questions, and I also have to imagine that's a unique opportunity to set the record straight on good information versus disinformation.

ARNOLD: Ok. This is Jill. This is a hard question. I think it's funny. It's always kind of a joke that nurses get asked everything, and there are a lot of different fields of nursing and different scopes of nursing. And so it's hard for a nurse to be able to, I think, answer any general health question because they can be very specific. Health care is very specified and there's a lot of specializations for a reason. It's advanced along the way. So whenever this conversation comes up about good information versus disinformation or misinformation, I almost wish I'd get asked more because I think we're at the point where people have kind of made up their minds and we see a lot of confirmation bias now and people are only wanting to kind of solidify what they think they already know. So I think it kind of goes beyond that problem of good information and disinformation because people often, I think, go and pick and choose parts of the information that suit what they have decided. It kind of limits the focus and their understanding. You don't just ask like a Yankees fan about the Boston Red Sox. You know, you can't just only hear one side of the story. And so I think it's really important that we kind of open that up that conversation. I know that there's been a very heated topic that often comes out through this, and there has been a lot of conflict that's turned into kind of incivility and contention through it.

So I get that people are busy. I know I'm super busy and it's really easy to get those easy pieces of information through, like social media websites or just what pops up on your feed or what people tell you and stories you have because it can take time to really do the research and find that good information out there. And I'm grateful for people who I trust. And health care professionals that I trust, both in school and personally to help provide that good information. I hope to be a good source of that in the future. That's kind of what I've got. Bryn, what would you add?

SORENSEN: Hi, this is Brynn. I just like to point people in the right direction when they ask questions. I like to offer what I can, but I really think it's such a good tool for people to know where to find answers. So I like to teach them what good research is, what bad research is, and just show them where to find the answers. Because I'm only in my second semester. So I don't know a lot, but I do know where to find answers, and that's kind of what I like to to teach others.

PRENTICE: Here we are. What is your message to anyone right now about where we are and how delicate our systems of care are right now in Idaho?

DYE: This is John, I'd love to comment on that. You know, a lot of people are not taking it seriously. I can tell you because I've seen it. It will kill you and it doesn't care whether you are over 30 years old. We're seeing younger and younger patients, we're seeing more and more children admitted. So don't just assume that because your kid is in that sort of seven, eight nine year old range and they're, you know, going to have minimal side effects from Covid, they're still going to the hospital. All of these people who have chosen not to become vaccinated are using up resources for people who are not, you know, making a choice. You know, the people who get into a car accident, the people who have a stroke, but people who have a heart attack, who need to be in the ICU and need these resources, they're not getting access to those resources because people are making a willful choice not to take the vaccine and and prevent these serious cases of COVID 19. And so I would just come back and say, you know, take this seriously, get your vaccination. I have not seen a single person in the hospital yet who was there because they had a side effect from the vaccination. All right. So take it seriously and please go out and give us a break and get your vaccine so that we can treat those people who have not made a choice to go to the hospital.

WANG: yeah, I totally agree what John is saying, and a lot of people use the argument that there's a ninety eight percent survival rate with COVID and people need to realize that. I think it's like ninety nine or ninety eight people need to realize that one person or two percent is still a lot of people. If you compare to the American population of how many people has died from COVID, and that is that could have been preventable. And those are real people with families and lives affected. And they're they're not just numbers. And people have to realize that your bowel, your your concerns about the vaccines are valid, but you have to know that there are consequences for you to if you either choose a vaccine or you don't choose the vaccine, and they have to be aware of those consequences, good or bad? Mm hmm.

LOPICCOLO: Yeah, this is Addison, and I just kind of I'm going to circle back and come on with a little bit of a different approach to everything is that regardless of COVID, regardless of the time zone right now, I think one big thing that we need to kind of remember is just individuals, whether it's us as students in nursing school or, you know, you're walking into a coffee shop, it's, you know, everything is uncertain and trying to be patient and flexible and really understanding that the person to your left and the person to your right. Nobody knows what the best thing is to do for themselves, for everybody else. Just be patient, you know, with whoever you're talking to, whether it's, you know, a hospital or you're just at the store, everybody's trying to do their best. And I don't know, just try to stay positive through these times.

PRENTICE: Jennifer Stark… goodness knows how many students you deal with every semester, but this is a pretty amazing group of people.

STOCK: When I look at this group and I've spoken with all of you, I've got several of you in classes. You remind me of all of the hope that I have for Idaho, the region, the world, because you are pursuing what I consider the most ethical and noble career. And I trust in your professionalism and dedication to the field. And I'm very excited that you'll all be available to take care of me someday.

PRENTICE: Indeed, and Jennifer, everything I've heard and read is that these folks will have ample opportunity to work as soon as they graduate. We are in desperate need of nurses.

STOCK: We are I can't imagine a nurse graduating in the next year or two who won't have a choice of jobs. We need them badly. You know, we're hopeful that everyone makes it through this and that all of our students get out and start working. A lot of them are already working with patients. They've opted to choose that position as a nurse apprentice or a nursing assistant or a phlebotomist or a lab tech. And we have a lot of students who are actively working with patients all the time, and it takes every single person to make it all work.

PRENTICE: They are Jennifer Stock and Brynn Sorensen. Ivy Wang, John Henry Dye, Addison,LoPiccolo and Jilene Arnold, and they are among the best of the best. And I'm extremely grateful that you are no one doing what you're doing. And then number two of giving us some time this morning. Have a great morning.

GROUP: Thank you. Thank you, George. Thank you so much, George. Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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